Just half a bottle of water could help students during exam time

Remembering to drink water during exams could make a big difference to the performance of over 2 million young people taking them this summer[1].

A recent study[2] carried out by psychologists at the University of East London and University of Westminster shows that drinking just 300ml of water (slightly over half a small bottle of water) can boost attention by almost 25%[3].

The researchers drew their conclusions after carrying out a series of attention and memory tests on young adults (mean age 21 years) before drinking water, after consuming 25ml and then 300ml.  The findings also showed that after drinking 300ml, thirst was satisfied and reports of ‘good mood’ increased by almost 20%[4].

The results follow a similar study carried out in 2012 by the same universities which found that University foundation year students who took a bottle of water into the exam room scored an average of 5% higher than those who did not have water[5].  Only 25% of students in the study entered the exam hall with a bottle of water.

Co-author of the research, Dr Caroline Edmonds of the University of East London says:

“This study builds on existing knowledge around drinking water and cognition and further demonstrates how water can make a positive difference to how we function generally, at work and at exam time.”

The same tests were carried out on children aged 7 to 9, and scientists saw a 31% improvement in attention after only 25ml of water consumption – compared to 12% in young adults.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, nutritionist and advisor to the Natural Hydration Council commented;

“Children are at a greater risk of dehydration than adults as they have higher water requirements in relation to their body weight.  Reminding children to sip water throughout the day is important and with no calories, it’s a healthy choice. It is also interesting to see that such a small amount of water can see such a significant improvement on children’s attention span”.


Published 11th May 2017

[1] Sources: 2,280,830 people were in Higher Education in 2015/2016 (HESA), 520,968 students completed stage 4 (GCSE level) in 2016 (DfE) and 337,662 people took a-levels in 2015 (DfE)”

[2] Edmonds et al (2016).  Dose-response effects of water supplementation on cognitive performance and mood in children and adults. Appetite, 108, 464-470

[3] Letter cancellation test (attention), adults (mean 21 years)

[4] Letter cancellation test (attention); digital span test (memory)

[5] Pawson, C., Gardner, M.R., Doherty, S., Martin, L., Soares, R, Edmonds, C.J. (2013). Fluid availability is associated with enhanced examination performance in adults. Psychology Teaching Review, 19 (1), Spring 2013.